Archos 70 Internet Tablet Review

Well, after being fairly positive in my review of the Coby Kyros, I am now getting a chance first-hand to see how their warranty process works out.  I won’t go into the details but if you have a Kyros and it breaks, you have to mail the unit to the US ($20CAD) and include a $20USD money order for the return trip.  I have my fingers crossed and in no way blame Coby for either the problem or the cost associated with the repair.  They are a low-price, high-volume company.

With that out of the way, I have purchased an Archos 70 Internet Tablet while we wait (im)patiently for the Coby to return.

Archos 70 Internet Tablet

My overall impression:  At $350, the Archos 70 is very reasonably priced for what you get.  it’s no iPad.  In some ways it’s  better, in many ways it is not.

Where the Kyros is a sub-$200 bottom-of-the-barrel Android tablet, the Archos 70 is a mid-range model.  It’s not as high-end as a Galaxy Tab or iPad, but it has many of the features that I care about from these more expensive devices, while still keeping well under $400.  In fact, I gather it’s often at $300 these days.

Me, I paid $350CDN at Tiger Direct.  For this, you get:

  • Pure Android 2.2
  • 1GHz CPU
  • OpenGL-capable graphics
  • 7″ Capacitive multi-touch 800×480 screen
  • A basic but appreciated kickstand
  • A Mini-USB port and Mini-HDMI port, Bluetooth
  • Not much else.

The Coby managed to swing a rather nice case for the money.  It would have been nice for the Archos to do the same.  However, the Kyros case didn’t stop the warranty call, and I find the Archos’ kickstand to be invaluable.

In day-to-day use, the Archos 70 is much faster than the Coby Kyros.  The CPU is clocked a bit higher and is a generation newer than the Kyros and this makes a huge difference.  It’s still not as fast as an iPad, but it is about as fast as the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  It looks like dual-core CPUs are going to be the norm from here on out, so no doubt the Archos 70 won’t age well.  Still, for the money it is no slouch.

The screen is a dust and fingerprint magnet and some people complain about the viewing angles.  I think it looks fine and is appropriate for the price.  If you expect this to be the same quality as a $600 tablet you’ll be disappointed.  If you’re realistic, you’ll be fine with it.

Like the Kyros, the Archos comes with AppsLib rather than the Android Market.  However, it’s even easier to install Google Apps on the Archos.  It took me 10 minutes to find the .apk and another two to install it, then it was off to the races.  As a hackable tablet, it’s a total win.

A small but versatile array of ports

As far as ports go, it has a Mini-USB port that you can apparently use with devices such as USB keyboards.  I haven’t tried this yet, but suspect that it would work fine.  It also has a mini-HDMI port, headphone jack, and power plug.  The power plug looks much like the headphone jack, and I’ve tried plugging the wrong thing in to the wrong spot more than once, so that was unfortunate.  In fact, to me it would have been ideal to have the Archos charge over USB.  Alas, no dice.

One thing I felt was lacking from the Kyros was bluetooth.  Thankfully, the Archos 70 has this.  This means that you can pair with a keyboard, tether to your smartphone, and otherwise use the device for work on the road.  In keeping with Archos’ hackable past, the device can also dual-boot Linux.  This is something that I will get to when the Coby comes back, and likely means that the device will have a fairly useful future ahead of it.  I will report back on this when I test it out.

The Archos easily paired with this Bluetooth keyboard

Android 2.2 works very well on the Archos 70, and Archos seems committed to the device, releasing updates fairly regularly.  The Kobo and Kindle Android apps work well, as do common Android games.  (Yes, Angry Birds works great.)  Thus far, this is the best Android device that I have used.  The browser works very well, and the entire system is quite responsive, even with a paltry 256MB of RAM.  There is a very active community around this device, and the Archos-supported Linux distribution available for the Archos 70 is a very interesting option that isn’t available for anything else that I am aware of.

Overall, the Archos 70 is a very flexible and peppy mid-range Android tablet.  After evaluating the options, I think it’s the best that’s out there for under $500 and certainly the best under $400.  Archos has a 10″ version, the S101, that is $399CDN with 16GB of storage.  They also sell a version of the 70 with a 200GB hard drive, rather than 8GB of flash. I initially purchased the hard drive version for someone at work, as the flash version was unavailable at the time.  While I understand the attraction of a 200GB tablet, the noise, delays, and additional weight of the hard drive version weren’t my cup of tea.  Still, I like having the option, and kudos to Archos for branching out in this regard.

The Archos 70, like the Coby Kyros, highlight the virtues of an open platform.  Sure, they aren’t a slick as an iPad, but the price and size are nice.  If you’re looking for a 7″ Android tablet, I don’t think you’ll do better all-around than the Archos 70.  It’s a big step up from the Coby and is still very reasonably priced.

The Archos, a Kobo, Palm Pre2, and Sony PRS 505

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